Design of the 'for cup sake' bins Bristol For Cups Sake Campaign

For Cups Sake! Bristol’s paper cup recycling bins

Three billion coffee cups are used and thrown away each year in the UK, with less than 4% currently recycled. Every day, approximately 7.5 million coffee cups are disposed of as litter. We wanted this to change.

Bristol’s paper cup recycling bins were located along key commuter routes throughout central Bristol to trial coffee cup recycling on the go as well as in popular shopping areas.

We now offer the opportunity for businesses and organisations to order a cup bin for their facilities.

Do you want a cup bin for your business?

Please contact our Business Team on 0800 061 4321 or email to talk to them about your cup recycling options.

A cup bin in front of Bristol's City Hall

What happened during the trial?

The cup bins were used properly when they were situated near businesses and organisations. However, the bins positioned on popular commuting routes and streets had issues with contamination, affecting the quality of the recyclable material.

The decision was made to remove the cup bins suffering from contamination but to keep the ones that performed well. 

A bag full of recyclable coffee cups of all shapes and sizes

Campaign results

We teamed up with One Tree Per Child and pledged to plant a tree for every 10,000 cups recycled, so in addition to giving the cup another life, using one of the new bins also created local environmental benefits.

During this campaign we collected nearly 10 tonnes of cups, that’s over 800,000 cups and planted 80 trees. The collected cups were all given a second life as high-quality paper, packaging and stationery products.

A reusable coffee cup being held in front of a cup bin

What's next?

Hubbub funded this trial between 2020 – 2023. Since then, we have seen a rise in cup recycling bin options in coffee shops and public spaces. Furthermore, there’s a strong shift towards reusable coffee cups. 

We have continued our work with Hubbub and expanded our on-the-go recycling options with the In The Loop Bins to encourage better recycling at the heart of the city. 

A Bristol Waste coffee cup bin in front of Bristol Cathedral

How to arrange paper cup recycling collection for your business

If your business has a large quantity of paper cups as waste, you may be interested in our commercial paper cup recycling collection. Please contact our Business Team on 0800 061 4321 or email to talk to them about your cup recycling options.

Get in touch
A graphic of a new Bristol Waste disposable cup recycling bin

Why did we choose paper cups?

Once collected from the new bins, the cups were baled at the Bristol Waste site in Avonmouth, sent to the James Cropper paper mill in the Lake District. Here the plastic lining was removed from the cup, allowing the paper to be recycled and turned in to high-quality items such as notebooks and paper shopping bags.

Find out more
Richard Burnett, recovered fibre expert at James Cropper tells us:

“Disposable cups are made up of 95% high-quality paper fibre with a 5% thin coating of polyethylene (plastic). Using our unique CupCycling™ facility, which has the capacity to upcycle 500 million cups every year, 95% of waste is converted back into paper and energy is derived from the remaining plastic in the production of recycled paper. This gives a second life to valuable fibre and creates a closed-loop solution to the global problem of disposable cup waste.”

The Cup Fund

Funding for the project was awarded through leading environmental charity, Hubbub. They launched The Cup Fund thanks to the 5p charge on disposable coffee cups voluntarily introduced by Starbucks to reduce plastic pollution.

Gavin Ellis, Director and Co-Founder of Hubbub said:

“While reusable cups are the most environmentally friendly choice, billions of paper cups are still being used each year and most aren’t recycled. We know that people generally want to do the right thing with recycling, but three in four people are still unaware that cups need to be collected separately from normal card and paper.

“12 Cup Fund projects across the UK are helping to raise awareness and introduce eye-catching cup recycling points in high footfall locations, and we hope to make it as easy as possible for Bristolians to recycle their cups when they’re out and about.”

Why can't compostable cups go in the bins?

Unfortunately, compostable cups have a plant based lining which breaks down differently to plastic and therefore cannot be recycled in the same process. You may be able to identify whether your disposable cup is compostable by the brand e.g. Vegware, or by a symbol or writing on the cup such as “compostable” or “made from plants”. If you think your cup is compostable, please put it in a general waste bin instead.

Find out more about compostable packaging

Compostable packaging is a relatively new material stream which the waste and recycling infrastructure in the UK is not yet fully able to deal with yet. Most compostable packaging won’t break down naturally. Instead, it must be processed in a specific type of industrial composting facility. There are only a few of these facilities in the country and unfortunately, there aren’t any local to Bristol. Currently, compostable materials;

  • are not recyclable and contaminate the recycling stream
  • cannot be put in your council-collected food waste bin or home composter
  • cannot be put in our paper cup recycling bins

Therefore, for now, the best place for compostable packaging is the general waste bin.